Transit Service Cuts Are Impacting People Across the Twin Cities
Metro Transit has had no easy time maintaining bus operations as usual these last couple of years with COVID understandably effecting ridership and contributing to a bus driver shortage. The agency has cut back on hours and frequency of service and eliminated some routes altogether.
People are waiting longer at the bus stop, unable to easily use transit to get to and from work and daily activities, and can’t rely on a train home at night like they used to.
This is a problem for many reasons. As Move Minnesota emphasized in our latest Boost the Bus petition, “Public transit is an essential service in our lives, our communities, and our workforce. Bus drivers are essential workers. Over 40 percent of transit riders are essential workers. Many other regular riders—including seniors, youth, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes—also rely on transit to get to the essential places in their lives.”
We are also hearing some officials and other voices point to lower transit ridership during the pandemic as evidence that we don’t need to make transit a priority on our streets or in our government budgets—but let’s be honest: you can’t expect people to catch a bus that isn’t coming. This is a harmful self-fulfilling prophecy that plays out across the country even as the climate crisis rages on: underinvest in transit, make service worse, watch ridership decline, claim we don’t need more funding or better service because “no one” is riding, rinse & repeat. It has been happening for decades, and we have to demand better.
For a whole year, Metro Transit explicitly asked people not to ride transit except for essential trips. Still, 80,000 people are riding Metro Transit every day. That’s like the entire population of Duluth on Twin Cities buses and trains. Every. Single. Day.
It is not enough to restore bus and train service to pre-pandemic levels. We need our leaders to be proactive in significantly improving, expanding, and funding fast, frequent, abundant transit that truly serves us as individuals and as a community.
What Transit Riders Are Saying
Move Minnesota has heard from many Twin Cities transit riders who have been affected by limited bus and train service and want improvements. In a recent conversation, Sam J. told us that his life is completely integrated with the transit system. Not only has he been a transit rider since his teenage years, but even into his adulthood he never found a need to get a license as he navigates the bus for work and his personal life. He finds himself most commonly on the 17 and 11 routes every single weekday.
The cuts have not spared his schedule. Sam used to be able to go to his bus stop unconsciously and wait for a bus, but now because of the reduced frequency, “I have to really plan ahead. I might really end up at work too early. Or too late. I can’t just go to the stop. You have to take time out to know when to be where now.”
Though Sam still uses transit on a daily basis, it is not his only way of getting around and he said that he would use the bus even more if it was more convenient.
Sam’s frustration and story are not uncommon. Plenty of other Twin Cities residents have noted the consequences of these cuts:
“I had to leave my job tonight because I had to get home and the bus doesn’t run later anymore.” — Katie W., Saint Paul
“Transit is an investment in our communities. Invariably when you cut services or raise prices you cut off, cut out those who need this transit the most. Without affordable, accessible transit our neighbors who are most in need will literally be left out in the cold.” — Willow R.K., Minneapolis
“[My husband] was taking the 756 bus to work but they have cancelled that route too, so now he has to walk a mile from where the alternative bus drops him off in order to get to work at Wells Fargo. He doesn’t mind the walk that much but we are wondering how many people are going to say ‘right, I’m just going to drive in.'” — Laura, Twin Cities
What You Can Do
Move Minnesota is connecting people to transit where the system works well and fighting hard to ensure it works for everyone. Here are a few ways for you to join us in our efforts to do exactly that.
- Push metro decision-makers for better bus service. Sign our online petition.
- Get involved as a Move Minnesota volunteer. Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tell us about your own experience as a bus or train rider. Good or bad, we’d love to hear from you! Share your story here.